Driver study produces important findings

Star Staff

NASCAR veteran driver Mark Martin and Winston Cup Rookie of the Year Matt Kenseth recently were the subjects of a hydration study that was conducted at the Chevy Monte Carlo 400 in Richmond, Virginia.
   Scientists from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) monitored Martin and Kenseth throughout the 400-lap, three-hour and 13-minute event to determine how well NASCAR drivers replace the fluids they lose through sweat during a race.
   In the grueling heat of a race, cockpit temperatures can often soar well beyond 115 degrees, placing drivers at risk for dehydration, heat illness and impaired performance.
   Martin's estimated total sweat loss during the race was 4.5 liters (153 ounces), nearly equivalent to 10 lbs. of bodyweight. However, Martin replaced 78% of his total sweat loss by drinking 3.52 liters (119 ounces) of fluid. Martin still experienced a final bodyweight loss of more than 2 lbs., and a post-race urine sample indicated significant dehydration even with this modest 2-lb. fluid deficit.
   "The battle to stay hydrated during a race is as severe as I thought it would be, if not more," said Martin. "We just haven't figured out how to do a better job than we are doing, but with help from scientists and sports nutritionists, we will keep working on it."
   Kenseth also completed the race, but was off the track and out of his car for nearly an hour due to a mid-race crash. Because he spent less time exposed to intensive cockpit temperatures, Kenseth's fluid loss was less dramatic than Martin's.
   According to GSSI, Kenseth lost 2.1 liters (70 ounces) of sweat. Yet, by drinking 1.66 liters (56 ounces) of fluid during the race, Kenseth was able to replace 81% of the fluid he lost, leaving him fairly well hydrated.
   Overall, both Martin and Kenseth experienced levels of fluid loss similar to those experienced by other endurance and team sport competitors, such as marathoners and football players. However, they did a better job of replacing fluids than several athletes GSSI has studied from these sports.
   During his two decades as one of Top Fuel's most successful drivers, Joe Amato wasn't the flashiest driver in the pits or the most controversial, but he did have an uncanny knack for finding the winner's circle.
   From his early days in the Pro Comp class through his record five NHRA Winston Top Fuel championships, the affable and popular Pennsylvania businessman seemingly won at will. In addition to his five Winston titles, Amato's résumé includes 52 victories in Top Fuel and another five behind the wheel of an alcohol-fueled dragster.
   A longtime fan favorite due to his easygoing nature and willingness to interact with the public, Amato competed in 99 final rounds in Top Fuel and won the Budweiser Shootout at Pomona a record six times. He finished in the top 10 an incredible 19 straight years, from 1982 through his sudden retirement at the end of the 2000 campaign.
   Amato's final victory as a driver came at the 2000 Keystone Nationals at his home track, Maple Grove Raceway in front of a large number of friends and fans. He had planned to host a Last Blast tour in 2001, but the persistent problems with his vision forced him out of the cockpit for good following the season-ending event in Pomona.
   Upon his retirement, Amato immediately announced plans to become a team owner and hired rising star Darrell Russell as his driver. It didn't take long for Amato to get his first taste of success as a team owner. Russell won the 2001 NHRA season-opening AutoZone Winternationals in Pomona.
   KINGSPORT - Kres VanDyke inherited the lead in the 50-lap NASCAR Late Model Stock Car feature under unusual circumstances last Friday night en route to capturing his second straight victory at Galaxy Kingsport Speedway.
   With the caution flag out on lap 24, contact between the lapped car of Bill Garrett and race leader Dave Burks, ended Burks' hopes of capturing his first-ever Late Model victory and handed the lead to VanDyke.
   "This is just awesome, coming back and winning for the second straight week," said VanDyke after climbing from his car. "The car was great tonight. I really feel like we made a statement tonight by backing up our win from last week and showed everyone it wasn't a fluke."
   Galaxy Kingsport Speedway will close out the 2001 racing season this weekend with the two-day, East Tennessee "Top Dawg" Championship events which will decide the point champions in all divisions.
   Friday, Oct. 5 features "King of Kings" and "Championship Shootout" qualifying races in all divisions, leading up to Saturday, Oct. 6 and the night of champions. The NASCAR Late Model Stocks will headline Saturday's (430-laps of feature racing in all divisions) program with a $2,000-to-win, 150-lap feature.
   Thanks to Robert Walden for the Kingsport Speedway report.